Singapore Maths: Improving pupils’ outcomes

Lee Fei Chen

“All Asians are good at Maths!”

We hear that often enough.

The debate on the political correctness of this all-too-familiar banter is not the subject of this discussion. The fact is that many Asian countries such as South Korea, China and Singapore have excelled in many of the Mathematics tests, surveys and Olympiads yearly. It makes sense to pick the best programmes if one were to hope to make a change to the education system. The announcement of the UK government’s planned £41 million investment in ‘Asian Maths’ for primary schools marks a determined push by the government to help their students improve in their Mathematics.

This happened in Singapore too. In the 1980s, the government of Singapore made a conscious decision to change its mathematics curriculum. Teams were sent overseas to look into the best school systems and learning theories at the time. What we came up with is the Singapore Maths of today.

Marshall Cavendish Education has been the partner of the Ministry of Education since this journey started. We wanted to produce textbooks that would help our students not only understand maths but master it. We encouraged a holistic approach, where there is interactive dialogue between the teachers and their classes. We had a unique “scaffolding” approach whereby our students were taught to drill in-depth into topics and not just skim over it. Apart from the materials, there was a conscious effort paid to the professional development of the teachers as well.

We developed our maths contents based on the Singapore Maths framework, with strong focus on problem-solving of non-routine, open-ended and real situation questions. Exercises in our print and digital materials challenge pupils to apply new skills learnt to tackle these problems. This does not only increase emotional connection between children and the tasks at hand, but also the enjoyment levels for them as they could see the relevance of the quizzes in their daily lives.

We are excited about the UK Government initiatives in changing the landscape of Mathematics teaching and learning in the UK; this bold and decisive move will have a great impact on the students and we hope to be a part of this journey.

Lee Fei Chen, Head of Publishing of Marshall Cavendish Publishing Group, is responsible for formulating and implementing strategies to grow the Group’s publishing operations worldwide.

Fei Chen has been with Times Publishing Group for over 15 years and has worked in its publishing businesses in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. She was instrumental in setting up Times Publishing Group’s electronic publishing business.

Prior to that, she worked at the Ministry of Education, Singapore, and as a lecturer in Hong Kong. Fei Chen obtained her Masters in Education at Harvard University on a Singapore Government Scholarship.

Inspire Maths from Oxford University Press is based on ‘My Pals are Here!’ used in almost 100% of Singapore’s state schools, published by Marshall Cavendish. Find out more about using the Singapore approach in the UK.

Find free support for Mastery in Mathematics, including Teaching for Mastery guides written with the NCETM and Maths Hubs on Oxford Owl for School. Simply register for free at to get started.